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BIRDSONGS OF THE MESOZOIC

RIO/Avant-Prog • United States


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Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic biography
BIRDSONGS OF THE MESOZOIC play an eclectic blend of rock, avant-garde noise, punk, classical, minimalist and free-form music with hypnotic electronic sequences. They began in the early 80's as a side project by pianist/percussionist Roger Miller and guitarist Martin Swope from Boston's MISSION OF BURMA. After many changes, the line-up eventually settled down to Erik Lindgren (piano and organ), Ken Field (saxes, flutes and percussion), Rick Scott (synths, piano and percussion) and Michael Bierylo (guitar, programming and sound design).

They've released ten albums to date, including two EP's and one compilation disk. Although they rely heavily on keyboards (one of their albums actually features 3!), they throw in just about anything and everything they can get their hands on. Some sax and acoustic piano also give their electronic sound a pleasant organic texture. For those who want to get acquainted, their latest three releases are a good start: "Dancing on A'A" (1995) could be described as Stravinsky with tribal rhythms and spacey keyboard solos; "Petrophonics" (2000) emphasizes the jazzier, more melodic side of the band; finally, "The Iridium Controversy" (2003) embodies just about everything this band is about, abounding with classical structures played energetically with traditional rock instruments.

Recommended for the highly adventurous (let's face it, a band that lists "chain on metal, a Mercury Cougar hubcap and a paint can" among their instruments should be a fair warning as to their 'unorthodox behaviour'. No pun intended here, except to say that BRAND X sound like pussy cats compared to these guys). Fans of ZAPPA, KING CRIMSON, AFTER CRYING and particularly UNIVERS ZERO will love this.

: : : Lise (HIBOU), CANADA : : :

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Iridium ControversyIridium Controversy
Cuneiform 2003
Audio CD$21.69
$9.38 (used)
FaultlineFaultline
Cuneiform 1995
Audio CD$11.17
$3.95 (used)
PetrophonicsPetrophonics
Cuneiform 2000
Audio CD$10.46
$8.48 (used)
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BIRDSONGS OF THE MESOZOIC discography


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BIRDSONGS OF THE MESOZOIC top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.00 | 6 ratings
Magnetic Flip Released
1984
3.14 | 18 ratings
Faultline
1989
3.80 | 11 ratings
Pyroclastics
1992
3.88 | 8 ratings
The Fossil Record (1980-1987)
1993
2.41 | 8 ratings
Dancing on A'A
1995
3.93 | 44 ratings
Petrophonics
2000
4.20 | 19 ratings
The Iridium Controversy
2003
2.82 | 11 ratings
Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic With Oral Moses: Extreme Spirituals
2006
2.00 | 2 ratings
1001 Real Apes (with David Greenberger)
2008

BIRDSONGS OF THE MESOZOIC Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.50 | 2 ratings
2001 Live Birds
2004

BIRDSONGS OF THE MESOZOIC Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

BIRDSONGS OF THE MESOZOIC Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.65 | 8 ratings
Sonic Geology
1988
4.00 | 4 ratings
Dawn of the Cycads
2008

BIRDSONGS OF THE MESOZOIC Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 4 ratings
Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic (Ep)
1983
4.00 | 2 ratings
Beat Of The Mesozoic (Ep)
1986

BIRDSONGS OF THE MESOZOIC Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Iridium Controversy  by BIRDSONGS OF THE MESOZOIC album cover Studio Album, 2003
4.20 | 19 ratings

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The Iridium Controversy
Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by admireArt

4 stars Béla Bartók lives on!

Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, 2003, "The Iridium Controversy " is kind of forgotten, even though they come from the USA, which usually brings on a wider audience. Nevertheless completely understandable, considering the kind of non-stop intensity this guys usually handle, but mainly because their contemporary classical music roots, which sets them apart in this sub-genre's different stylings. So just to paint a clear picture, their musical "structures" stand closer to the latter Universe Zero's or Art Zoyd's (although not that "serious"), than Zappa's or The Residents' or Zamla's.

All of this of course, without losing the "humor" (but not caring really that much) or the "idiosincracies" of this sub- genre. Their songs run free in different and varied directions, but the intensity in each enhances their very structured musical language as composition and performance go.

What to expect? For starters completely "instrumental", then, composition-wise: "Bartokian" counterpointing like rhythms, clear references to Steve Reich's "micro-minimalism", lots of free-Jazz and electronics, with some howling electric guitars and saxes. Blended with punk and rock and classical music lines, some "dark-ambiental" moments, as some unorthodox "latin" flavors, mixed up with a unique and original style that never runs dry of musical ideas, creativity or proposals.

****4.5 "intense, intense, non-stop RiO/AV", PA stars.

Not for everyone, but "gold" for those who enjoy this kind of trips!

P.D. And of course the deserving Roger Dean art cover pays for itself!

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 Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic With Oral Moses: Extreme Spirituals by BIRDSONGS OF THE MESOZOIC album cover Studio Album, 2006
2.82 | 11 ratings

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Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic With Oral Moses: Extreme Spirituals
Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Man With Hat
Collaborator Jazz-Rock/Fusion Team

2 stars A strange, hilarious mix.

A collaboration that most people would have never thought should have happened. From what I could gather, Oral Moses is a well renowned bass baritone singer, who I never heard of before this record, deeply rooted in the gospel/spiritual/slave song/similar type of musics scene, none of which fit nicely with Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic's avant-garde classical electronic rock type of thing. Yet, here are the two sides, firmly smashed together. First things first, all of these songs are covers of traditional spirituals. Granted, aside from the singing you can't tell, but this really isn't a true blue new Birdsongs work. And the results, for me, are more hilarity than brilliance. Oral is singing very seriously throughout the disc, and at least on the songs that I know, rather straight forward and in line with how the songs are generally sung. The music, on the other hand, is more or less the exact opposite of traditional. Strange synthetic sounds, drum machines, electronic drifts, lots of keyboard happenings, an oddly tuneful sax and a general experimental (at times a peuso-experimental) atmosphere back Mr. Moses. The juxtaposition between the new (technology and experimentation) and old (singing and the songs themselves) is the greatest strength of this album. However, that is not enough to really save it.

Honestly, the first time I heard this record there was a good deal of laughing. The way Oral's vocals don't fit the music at all (or the way the music doesn't fit the vocals at all) is at times to much to take as a serious entity. At times it almost sounds like they were trying to get the listener to laugh, which from reading the liner notes certainly wasn't the intent of BOTM or Oral Moses. And most of the time it sounds like they clipped the vocals from a true (or regular) version of the songs and just substituted in music from a completely different source. Sure, at times the sax will play the melody, but that quickly passes and the band goes it's own way. On the surface, this style isn't a problem for me, and could be excellent. But there is a bigger problem here. There are instances where it sounds like the band is holding back, where they could be doing more to fill out the space. The result is music that sound very thin at times, almost as if it's unfinished, or they forgot to mix in another couple of tracks into the song. Maybe Birdsongs didn't want to overstep their bounds, but really, taking on a project such as this is bound to step on some toes along the way, so you might as well go all out. Now there are some positives here. Joshua Fit The Battle Of Jericho is quite nice. The music finally seems to be firing on nearly all cylinders and gets the listeners attention. The same could be said for most of the final song Amen. Unfortunately, it does suffer from being a little bit of the cheesy side in the middle bits. And Oral's voice is very nice and the deep tones could be rather soothing in the right context. Sure, it doesn't really fit with the music, but it can stand on it's own.

All in all, this is a curious page in the book of Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic. For an entirely instrumental band to go out and find a bass baritone singer and do an entire album of religious covers, is something I'm sure no one expected them to do. I just wish this was more successful and I wish the music was fuller. The humor aspect also loses something over repeated listens, although I still laugh uncontrollably during Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray. I also hope this isn't the last Birdsongs album, because this would really be a low note to go out on. There is really nothing for prog fans to grab onto here, other than, perhaps, the mixing of two things that usually aren't mixed. Needless to say, if you don't like your lyrics to be saturated with Christian themes, don't even think about this record. Similarly, if you like your music smooth and consonant, you could skip this one as well. Really, this is only for fans of the band who want to hear them in another light. A good idea that wasn't executed as well as it could have been. 2 stars.

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 Faultline by BIRDSONGS OF THE MESOZOIC album cover Studio Album, 1989
3.14 | 18 ratings

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Faultline
Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Bonnek
Special Collaborator Prog Metal Team

3 stars Birdsong of the Mesozoic is a RIO band with roots in the punk movement (Mission of Burma). Their sound is RIO with a strong industrial rock edge, making the band sound like a cross-over between Univers Zero (Uzed) and Coil (Horse Rotorvator).

The only elements reminiscent of their punk past is the short and snappy nature of the tracks presented. And of course the anarchistic attitude towards music which is as strong in RIO as it is in punk. The quality of the pieces is a bit of a problem though. The opening 15 minutes that are vibrant and sweeping, but from Chariots of Fire onwards, the pace slows down and the musicianship gets more subdued. It's an almost ambient and minimalistic style that doesn't seem to fit the band too well and doesn't produce much memorable material.

The title track tries to stir things up again but the damage is done. The album shrinks to mere background music, which is not what you want from your RIO. Overall, the album is interesting enough to find out more about this band, but the next one will have to be better.

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 Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic (Ep)  by BIRDSONGS OF THE MESOZOIC album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1983
3.00 | 4 ratings

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Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic (Ep)
Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by memowakeman
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

2 stars The first steps! Birdsongs of the Mesozoic are an American RIO band that was formed in the first half of the eighties, since then they have released several albums whose sound has changed a little bit, but their essence is the same.

My introduction to this band was their "Sonic Geology", which is a compilation of their earlier stuff. And liked their peculiar style, which is why I wanted to know more about them. A couple of weeks ago I found this self titled EP, which is actually their first release ever, so here the roots of the band can be appreciated.

This EP was released in 1983 and features only five songs, with a total time of 16 minutes. What you will find here, is a combination of avant-garde music with some kind of post-punk, interesting.

And that can be heard since the very first song "Sound Valentine" where a piano sound appears along with some kind of electronic drums, creating a tense atmosphere that in moments turns dark, the song is short and the structure is the same, but sounds interesting. Let me tell you that here you will find a purely instrumental album.

The next three songs are really short; they do not reach the 3 minutes. First there is "Transformation of Oz" where a piano and a farfisa appear interplaying with those electronic drums; it could be used as a soundtrack of either a terror or a science fiction movie. Next is "Drift" whose sound is softer and gentler in the first minute, later a kind of synth enters and adds some strange noises as background, creating again a nervous or tense atmosphere. "The Orange Ocean" has an addictive piano sound all over the song, the good thing are the elements they add throughout it, like some kind of cello that creates a beautiful sound, it is a pity the song is too short.

And this EP finishes with its longest song (six minutes) entitled "Triassic Jurassic Cretaceous" which again has that electronic drums that actually remind me to some Tuxedomoon passages. There are plenty of odd noises here that can drive you crazy, but at the same time can put you in an intriguing even exciting mood. Those strange sounds create some images in your mind that could lead you to an imaginary story, but that's only me, who like inventing stories while listening to music.

This is not the best introduction to the band, but if you want to listen to their first steps, you can get this self-titled EP. I like it and enjoy it every time I listen to it, but I do not really consider it could be actually recommendable, so I believe two stars is the correct rating, it is good, but just for fans?anyway

Enjoy it!

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 Magnetic Flip Released by BIRDSONGS OF THE MESOZOIC album cover Studio Album, 1984
4.00 | 6 ratings

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Magnetic Flip Released
Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Evolver
Special Collaborator Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams

4 stars 1984 was a dismal time for progressive rock. The music press and the major labels had all but wiped out the genre. The revived King Crimson was on it's last leg, Rush was at the very end of their most progressive period, and Genesis was now Phil Collins' backup band.

Indy labels were the protectors of the spirit of prog. Boston's Ace Of Hearts Records found a truly unique band, born from the ashes of the punk band, Mission Of Burma. Billing themselves as electric chamber music, this band had more in common with Henry Cow than the Sex Pistols. Using a combination of guitar, piano, organ, synthesizers, a drum machine, and anything they could bang on, Birdsongs successfully created their own style, a curious blend of rock and avant garde classical.

Not to be missed on this record are (excerpts from) The Rite Of Spring and a wild version of The Theme From Rocky And Bullwinkle. The rest of the album is great. too.

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 Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic (Ep)  by BIRDSONGS OF THE MESOZOIC album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1983
3.00 | 4 ratings

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Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic (Ep)
Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Evolver
Special Collaborator Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams

4 stars This is the first release from the coolest band ever to come out of Boston, that bastion of progressive music.......not!

The songs on this EP are mostly short, and the drums were primarily done on a rhythm machine, the precursor to synthesized drums. But the music is spectacular. Electric chamber music, as the band described it. Mostly angular compositions, very heavily weighted towards acoustic piano, but about as avant-garde as a band can get.

And my EP (perchased when the record was first released) still has the cut out mesozoic diorama, making it extra cool.

If you can find this rarity, it's quite worth it.

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 Beat Of The Mesozoic (Ep)  by BIRDSONGS OF THE MESOZOIC album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1986
4.00 | 2 ratings

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Beat Of The Mesozoic (Ep)
Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Evolver
Special Collaborator Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams

4 stars The mid nineteen eighties in Boston was a terrible time and place for good music. Punk and new wave were still getting most of the gigs in the clubs. Progressive bands, despite a huge college scene, including one of the top music schools in the country, were nowhere to be found. Except for one strange exception. Birdsongs of the Mesozoic played regularly in Cambridge, just down the street from where I worked in a record store. Their ability to get gigs probably was because two of their members were originally in Mission Of Burma, an extremely popular punk band.

Anyway, this EP perfectly captures the spirit and creativity of this bizarre chamber rock group. Blending RIO, electronic, classical, and just about any oddball sound they could find, Birdsongs created their own genre.

Highly recommended.

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 Sonic Geology by BIRDSONGS OF THE MESOZOIC album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1988
3.65 | 8 ratings

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Sonic Geology
Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Evolver
Special Collaborator Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams

4 stars While not as polished sounding as their subsequent releases, I find the early recordings of Birdsongs of the Mesozoic to be much more interesting. Perhaps that is because of the work of Roger Miller (no not that guy, the one from Mission of Burma), adding a harder edge to the music.

This collection is culled from the band's original vinyl releases, all classics. The sound quality is a bit rough, and the rhythm section is held together by a cheesy drum machine. But that doesn't keep the band from creating some fantastic music. The majority of the tracks are built upon simple, but unconventional licks, repeated and built on until they reach a frenzy. And the highlights to me are two cover tunes, an amazing version of the theme somg from Rocky & Bullwinkle, and excerpts from Stravinsky's Rites of Spring.

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 Pyroclastics by BIRDSONGS OF THE MESOZOIC album cover Studio Album, 1992
3.80 | 11 ratings

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Pyroclastics
Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Evolver
Special Collaborator Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams

4 stars The most amazing thing about Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic is that they came out of Boston, a city, despite being home to two of the best music schools in the world, has almost no ear for interesting music. When you think of Boston bands, what comes to mind? The mostly generic arena rock of Boston? The too simplistic pop of The Cars? Bleah!

There is almost no prog in Boston. My friends & I were once the only ones to show up at an Echolyn concert. So it's quite a surprise that Birdsongs can actually thrive here.

This album is quite good. It was the first I had head without Roger Miller (no, not that one). The tone without Miller, to me is a bit less harsh, and very palatable. The majority of the original songs here are inventive and creative, taking unexpected turns rhythmically, melodicly, and tonally. And each piece is completely unique.

The problems on this disk begin with the covers, an okay but nothing special version of The Simpsons theme song, which doesn't come close to their cover of The Rock & Bullwinkle theme, recorded for their first full length album, and Eno's Sombre Reptiles, which makes me yearn for 801's spectacular version from their live album.

The disk is also 2 songs too long. They should have left off "Tomorrow Never Came", a song using a rhythm borrowed from The Beatles "Tomorrow Never Knows" as well as some small pieces of the melody. The song goes nowhere and stays there for its entire 4 minutes. The album ends with a boring rendition of Brian Wilson's "Our Prayer" played as a straight chamber piece.

Despite the above faults, I highly recommend this one.

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 Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic (Ep)  by BIRDSONGS OF THE MESOZOIC album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1983
3.00 | 4 ratings

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Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic (Ep)
Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

3 stars I think this might have actually been the first thing these guys ever released. This is a pretty short EP consisting of five tracks, four of which are almost inconsequentially brief, and the more substantial Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous which would eventually appear along with Drift and The Orange Ocean on the full-length studio album 'Sonic Geology'. The other two songs would show up on 'The Fossil Record' compilation years later, after the band had made something of a name for themselves.

There's really not a whole lot to say about this EP; if you've never heard Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic then you may be in for a treat; that is if you are one of those people who got into the faux-jazz post- punk music scene of the mid-eighties that spawned these guys and others like them. Joe Jackson, Jah Wobble and Group 87 among others rode the wave for a few years as well.

These guys are great musicians for sure, although I wouldn't consider them to be avant-garde necessarily. More like a group of guys who clearly have formal musical training and a penchant for experimentation, mostly of the digital and synthesized variety. If you strip away the sound effects this is basically chamber music, slightly jazz-leaning in its composition, and with the bonus of a Farfisa organ, which I personally find to be a very warm and engaging instrument. Roger Miller was still with the band at this point as well, and his solid piano work reinforces the jazz references (and I would also mention the dude is very impressive with the level of finger dexterity and speed he shows, especially on the closing track).

Three stars seems about right; this is a decent introduction to the band and sort of marks their territory musically. Their fanbase isn't exactly huge, but they do appear to be quite loyal, so fans and collectors probably already have this. If you don't then you probably aren't a serious fan, and in that case I think I'd recommend the 'The Fossil Record' instead since it has some of the songs on this EP and also a number of other rarities from the band's early years. That actually sounds more like an argument for two stars, but the music is very well-played and I can't quite bring myself to rate it as somehow substandard because it isn't - it's just not for everybody. If you're a Birdsongs fan, you already know this.

peace

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